Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Creature Caster and Jeremy Glen

Earlier in the week I posted pictures of the delivered models from Creature Caster's First Wave Kickstarter.


This Kickstarter funded in March 2014 after a campaign that started a couple of months before with some guerilla marketing. A series of photos were supposedly "found" in a cafe and then posted on a number of forums with an "OMG! Look at these leaked images of secret models". It then transpired that they were photos of CAD models for Creature Caster's upcoming Kickstarter.

Creature Caster was the creation of Jeremy Glen who had been the principal of Ultraforge which produced resin models around 2007/08. I have their Treelady while Jack has the Dragon which he uses for his Dark Elves. Both were great models. So, fair to say Jeremy had a reputation for producing good models.

The Kickstarter raised Canadian $335,000. It fair exceeded it initially expressed expectations. This led to a number of additional models being created as stretch goals. This did not immediately concern me as Jeremy was showing the completed CAD designs for the original suite of models through the campaign.



If you at all pledged during the campaign you'll know how involved Jeremy was. He was all over the Comments section released regular (sometimes daily) updates and was a frequent poster on the forums following the campaign. An additional two Daemons and either two or three Dragons were added during the campaign. In addition, alternative parts were offered for the initial suite of models.


Everything was planned. The models were to be 3-D printed from the CAD sculpts and then cast to "jewellery quality" in resin. Jeremy had the printers and casters all lined up as a result of his "extensive experience in the industry". There was little risk.

One of the key selling points - especially to overseas pledgers - was that Creature Caster had a series of warehousing hubs set up around the world to which the models would ship and be distributed. This promised lower shipping costs and importantly bypassing of customs duties to the international supporter.


Of course, it was all BULLSHIT!

Jeremy was a master marketer but, it transpired, a crap businessman. A few whispers started to surface that he had a less than stellar reputation with the owners of a number of North America's larger retail outlets - a big talker but not a reliable deliverer.

But it didn't matter, he had the money.
Over the first few months Jeremy held regular video hangouts with his "fans". Here there was a lot of positive energy and unbridled love for what he was doing. Any business questions or enquiries in the Comments were left unanswered or brushed aside. A number of us who sought information on mode and timing of delivery, progress against milestones etc were brushed aside byWhile Knights (the most aggressive being LWarren16).

And then we had Coffeegate!

About three months after funding disaster struck. Apparently Jeremy spilled a cup of coffee on his laptop resulting in his inability to sculpt and the loss of some of his work to date. This held him up for around 3 months as he tried to fix his computer - we lived through updates of his troubles - but never to it dawn on him to drop $2-3k of the money he had raised to buy a new machine. Nor did it seem strange that he had kept no backup copies of his work. Alarm bells got louder.

As we approached delivery date more questions were asked but details weren't forthcoming. In retrospect this shouldn't have been a surprise as it is now obvious there was no plan.

Into 2015 and updates became more infrequent. Jeremy went missing for a significant period of time due to health issues. I'm not surprised that he was stressed as it was now reasonably clear that he had overpromised and overcommitted. However where he doesn't get a pass is that he took no steps to help himself or the Kickstarter by getting a business manager in. What support there was came from Kenny, a volunteer who had put the Pledge Master together and for a long time kept the lights on in the Comments section.

Late in 2015 the troubles around printers and casters surfaced. Jeremy flew to London to arrange logistics but in retrospect this looks like it was little more than a clusterfuck. It was now obvious that all the assurances regarding having 3D printers and casting facilities lined up at the start of the campaign were all hot air. I'm not sure whether this was because people were unprepared to work with him, that he had never had them in the first place or something else. But I can hazard a guess.

The clamour from backers started to grow as we passed the anniversary of delivery. Then in 2016 Jeremy decided he would create his own casting facility from scratch just around the corner from where he lived. Suddenly the Kickstarter went from supply of his models to funding his own casting facility. Around this time Jeremy started to further withdraw from the "front of house". In May 2016 I asked him by private message to provide a progress update, a percentage completion, a final delivery date and sought assurances around shipping and packaging. I was told everything was now progressing smoothly and I could expect delivery in August 2016.

In the second half of 2016 two critical pieces of news were announced. First that Jeremy had "sold" the Kickstarter to the casters but remained as Artistic Director; and that hub shipping would not be forthcoming. Now I'm enough of a cynic to disbelieve a lot of what I am told in relation to this venture. I personally don't believe that Jeremy had ended his ownership of the campaign. I believe he had blown through a lot of the money and did not like taking the increasing heat that he was taking as principal of Creature Caster. IMO he took a "Look Out Sir" roll to throw others under the bus.

The loss of hub shipping was huge and a total betrayal of trust. Jeremy had given assurances that he had distribution centres lined up so that backers would have reduced shipping costs and could potentially avoid customs duties. On that basis a lot of people invested a lot more than they would have had they known it was all bullshit (the little graphic above was all a figment of Jeremy's imagination. As a result of this failed assurance the cost of the project increased substantially for those outside North America. Finally, the veil was lifted and the heat increased. Salt was rubbed in the wound when retail customers were offered free shipping while backers had to pay 100s of dollars.

At the same time, early pictures of finished models showed a substantial shortfall in the promised quality. Rather than "jewellery quality", the models lacked definition, had inconsistent detail and showed mould slippage. The final product was very  reflective of a start-up caster with little experience of high end resin casting.

The models began to ship in November/December 2016 however the largest backers did not receive models until February 2017 - after Creature Caster's retail shop began selling the models.

As part of my pledge I committed $25 for a DVD of Painting Buddha painting the Vulture Daemon. This never was produced. There is some discussion as to who's fault this was - PB says he was never paid nor received the model. However rather than refund the money Creature Caster kept it and refused to offset it against shipping. They offered a $25 voucher for the retail shop. In my mind this was little more than theft. The item was never produced so the money should have been ringfenced and refunded.

Finally, early February 2017 I received my models arrived. Well I had them sent to Jack in Boston and they arrived. Creature Caster refused to give assurances that models lost in the post would be replaced. I decided to limit my risk. They are now being sent tracked from Boston for a fraction of the shipping costs quoted.

So I'm going to summarise this quick and simple. Based on my experiences in this Kickstarter:
  • Jeremy Glen is not a businessman. He may be a gifted sculptor but in the nearly three years of this campaign he has shown that he over promises, over commits and in cases pads the truth. He has repeatedly demonstrated that he will not take responsibility for his actions and failure to deliver.

  • Creature Caster are not a high end producer of resin models. Somewhere in this process the CAD sculpts of their "Artistic Director" did not translate into the "jewellery grade" resin models backers were promised.

  • Parts of this Kickstarter border on fraudulent. From the assurances around hub shipping, the pocketing of the DVD money, the lack of promised certificates of authenticity (ha!) etc there has been some very shonky business practices.
I will never purchase a product from a company that involves Jeremy Glen again. Because of their association with him (I don't believe there is separation), I will never buy anything from Creature Caster.

I would urge any readers not to support this company or sculptor in any of their future endeavours. IMO you are setting yourself up for disappointment.

My greatest joy in this Kickstarter is that it is over. How sad is that?

5 comments:

  1. wow. I agree Pete, that is sad that your experience was so poor. Especially when trying to support a start up.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Had a similar experience with the Games & Gears Battle boards kickstarter. Big promises at the start, then delays, delays, a "flood" which supposedly caused even more delays & finally got the product about 2 years late & way under what was promised. And I was one of the lucky ones, as there's still people chasing refunds now.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I was a backer and sadly I have to agree with everything Pete said, particularly in relation to Jeremy Glen.

    I posted vids of my unboxing:

    https://youtu.be/YfwuMdk3Qi0
    https://youtu.be/U4W-Z439H54

    The customer service team advised they would send replacement models and I will do an updated review when they arrive. That was over two weeks ago now..

    ReplyDelete
  4. Just got a $35 postage bill - now I've seen the quality of the minis, tempted to cut my losses and let them keep the minis.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Absolutely 100% agree. Has the same experience.
    I was super excited for over a year and a half to get this model... by the time it finally shipped, I had gotten very annoyed at the whole thing, but still looked forward to getting the model. All in all, it's not terrible.. but it is far from the quality promised.

    The whole ride was an awful time and I think Jeremy really needs to have a hard look at himself.

    ReplyDelete